Thursday, 15 September 2016

Genie In My Kitchen

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This evening one of the boys asked what would I wish for if a genie appeared.  I told him the genie would consider my ask to be very boring and unoriginal because it would be to keep everyone in my family happy and healthy.   That’s where he cut me right off.

“Would you not just ask for infinity wishes then?  That way you could get loads of stuff.”

A very valid point.  I didn’t bother to tell him that I don’t actually want “loads of stuff” because   wanting LOS (Loads of Stuff) is what kids are all about.  It is the very essence of their being.  The more stuff the better.  His eyes were lit up with the list of LOS he wanted should this genie appear. 

We had a small chat about it but then he became distracted by a game that his brothers were involved in so he skipped off.    Leaving me to consider the genie. 

I spoke the truth when I mentioned my lack of interest in LOS.  Realising that in itself made me happy.  I’m grand the way I am, thanks.  But sometimes it’s nice to daydream.  To let your imagination run wild.  And as I messed about with the tea towel and dishes, I let my mind wander a little. 

Inserting caveat here.    If a genie did appear in my kitchen (because where else would I be?) and absolutely insisted that he (why are they always of the male variety?) bestow upon me a wish, it would truly be for continued good health and happiness for my family.

And if the genie were to eyeball me cynically and insist that I request something small for myself, I might ask for lots of books.  Perhaps maybe half a dozen to arrive through my letter box each month to keep me going.

And if the genie were to consider this a little too dry and boring a desire, that I must make this visit worth his while and be a little unconventional with my demands, I might chance my arm and ask to be two inches taller.  It would lengthen everything else, you see.  Make that pesky half stone that refuses to bugger off, less noticeable. 

And as a reward for playing the game properly, if the genie were to reward me with a bonus wish, I might remember the lesson learned and ask for something even more lofty and slightly out of reach.   I think I’d go for a chef.   Someone to call to the house, just a couple of evenings a week, with a box of delicious food, similar to the menu in my favourite Thai restaurant, and cook up a storm.  I’d even clean up afterwards.   I might ask for that. 

But in the meantime, I’ll settle for exactly what I have, thank you very much,  


Health and happiness. 

Health & Happiness

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Big Day

Today was a big day in our house.   Smallest Boy donned a red jumper, grey trousers, shiny black shoes, snapped on an elastic tie, yanked a blue backpack decorated with moustaches onto his back and went to school.

I have been waiting for this day since the beginning of time.   At least that is what it felt like.   Out of my four boys, he stayed with me the longest.  He attended Montessori only when he “had to” which was last year as I felt to send him into Big School cold turkey would be an awful shock to his system.

And I enjoyed his company.  Immensely.    We get on very well together.   We gel.   He regularly tells me how much he loves me and if I am not in the same room, he will yell it out all the same.  

So when today rolled around I had a funny feeling in my tummy.  It was both a happy expectation and a dull sense of unease.

I could feel uncertainty rolling off Smallest Boy like waves on a beach.   I’m a great one for making mistakes.  I like to think it keeps me humble.   Keeps me grounded.   So having been around the First Day at School Block three times before, I thought I had this in the bag.

Janey, I thought Smallest Boy had this in the bag.

I allowed the fact that he has been “going” to school for the last five years and nearly five months to cloud how big a deal today really was for him.

Sure, he stood outside the school gate each morning and afternoon.  He knew inside “Múinteoir Stephanie’s” office as well as I did.  He knew all the múinteoirí.   All the múinteoirí knew him.  His brothers’ buddies have been greeting him by name forever.  He was known in there.

But that’s not the same as going as a student.

The wobbles last night were to be expected.  When he bumped himself on the trampoline and got upset, I put it down to sensitivity about the morning.   When he said he couldn’t sleep because he was “too hot,” “too not tired,” “too thirsty,” “too something” I knew trouble could be ahead.

And it was.  He became annoyed and frustrated at the obligatory school photos so we cut them short.   His daddy had words of advice and reassurance for him before we left the house and he was smiling when we got into the car.

On the drive into school, I kept the radio off so he could chat to me and ask me questions.   The first question was asked in a small voice.

“Will you bring me in today?”

My heart!  I can’t tell you.   This boy, who has been with me as I walked his brothers into their classroom for many many months until they were ready to do it alone, thought he was expected to do the same thing himself.

I reassured him that I would bring him in as long as he wanted me to.  Like I did for the others.

Another positive step when he ran from the car and to the gate by himself.   Nothing new.  He’s always done this.   He joined the “big boys” at the gate.  Nothing new there either.  He ran back and forth enjoying himself and chatting.

It was almost time to go in and then he said he wasn’t sure he would “get the hang of this day.”   I knew he meant he didn’t know what to expect.   

So I told him.  Again. 

How Múinteoir would take his books out of his bag and let everyone know when it’s snack time.  How it’s going to be like Montessori for days until everyone gets the hang of it.  How everyone is in the same boat today and no-one knows exactly what to do.

“I’ve got it now.  Thank you.” 

And in we went.   I thought I had covered everything.   But everything is different for everyone.   I thought I had learned that.  

It was a strange morning.  Stranger than I anticipated.   I went home and suddenly the house, the one that had been heaving with boy sounds for the summer, seemed louder than it ever did.   It was eerie.  I couldn’t figure it out. 

I realised the truth behind the expression, “the silence was deafening.”

Then it hit me.  

I missed them!  I missed my boys.   Hand on heart, it was something I never thought I’d feel or even admit.

I knew I would see them all in a matter of hours but it felt like days away.

Janey, I thought I had this one in the bag.  Like I said; I’m a great one for making mistakes.


It keeps me humble.  


Friday, 19 August 2016

School Daze

A version of this appeared in the Autumn issue of Mums & Tots magazine in 2014. 


I used to be a sucker for magazines that displayed the tag line “First Day at School – How to Make It Easier.” I was convinced I was going to read something of worth, something I hadn’t read before or thought of myself.  But it was yet another advice piece that didn’t deliver.
More common sense wrapped up as counsel about having the uniform ready the night before, getting everyone up a little bit early to avoid a stressful rush out the door and giving your child a nice piece of fruit to ease them into their new experience.

Come on!  I wanted information on how to deal with the child who makes like an ostrich and blocks out the New Experience. I was looking for guidance on how to discreetly and politely intercept people before they asked, “are you looking forward to big school?” when I knew the thumb being shoved into his mouth was not only his way of self-soothing but also a stopper; his method of holding everything in. 

What about the playground?  There will be no swings and slides in this one.  How was he going to deal with that? 

I had done everything the magazine articles suggested; he’d been to the open afternoon and met his teacher.  He had not one but two school bags to choose from.  He also selected his own “easy open” lunch box. 

His new school books would be arriving any day now then we would try on his uniform and purchase those very much coveted runners and new shoes especially for school. 

I wanted my money back! 

So I was thrilled when he asked me to tell him about school.   It was the perfect opportunity to describe everything to him. His older brother was present and all set to offer his two pence worth. 

He had something of great importance to impart, something I neglected to tell him on his big day and this was to wait until teacher tells you it is time to eat.  Don’t just start eating your lunch when you feel like it. “Because you never told me that.”   See how they remember even the tiniest little thing? 

My fourth boy will be starting school in a few weeks.  Even though I’ve bought and worn the t-shirt three times previously, I find the same little problems arise each and every time.  The same little niggles and worries for both parent and child.

I have outlined the trouble shooters below.  Hopefully they will help ease your child through the transition that is Big School.

Communicate

Sometimes it can be as simple as talking about it.  Don’t assume they know what to expect.  There is a big difference between the unstructured play of Montessori and the expectations of a larger classroom setting.  It is an idea to talk casually about school initially and then closer to the time discuss in a little more detail what the first day will entail.  Turn it into a game and encourage a question and answer session at the end.  Take advantage of any interest your child shows and talk about it.

Preparation

A little prep goes a long way.  What happens if there are three Spiderman/Dora the Explorer school bags?  A key-ring on your child’s bag will solve that problem.  What about their gorgeous new coat with all of those buttons and shoes with laces?  A zipped coat is easier for little hands to operate and maybe Velcro-ed shoes are better kept until they master the art of lace tying.  Also ensure your child’s name is on everything.  It is inevitable mix ups will occur.  Maybe not on the first day but if your child can recognise their belongings it will eliminate stress.

Lunch

Yogurts.  Yay or nay?  I can still remember spilling the contents of mine.  Does the school have a healthy food policy and encourage fruit and vegetables with a small treat reserved for Fridays only?     What if they are too shy to approach the person they will come to call Teacher when they can’t open their brand new cartoon character emblazoned lunch box?  Water bottles that refuse to open?  Bananas that are difficult to eat?  Of course, your child may opt not to eat anything at all due to utter excitement so a good, nutritious breakfast will stave off hunger pangs and an energy slump mid-morning.

Toileting

Make sure your child knows where the bathroom is.  Anxiety can prompt them to “hold it” until it’s too late.    These days schools have boy and girl cubicles in the classroom which makes it a lot easier.    

Punctuality

I feel this is an important one particularly if your child is nervous.  Get to the school with plenty of time to spare. Absorb the atmosphere and just relax for a few moments before going into the classroom.  Allow your child to indicate when they are ready.  Most schools operate a staggered start time for the first day but one of the most important pointers is plenty of reassurance you will be back to collect them.  Make sure you are not late. 

Tears

Yours that is!  I’ve been there. Your child is nervously looking around, not making eye contact with anyone and their lower lip begins to tremble.  Water filled eyes look up and it is all you can do not to join in.  Don’t join in.  Wait till you are back in your car. Yes, it’s heart breaking.  Yes, it’s hard.  Tears can and will be frequent in the first few weeks but it is important that you keep smiling.  A big hug and a confident reminder that you will see them very soon might not work the first couple of mornings and in the event that your little one doesn’t settle, remember, you have picked a school you believe in for your child.   They will act accordingly and contact you if necessary.    

Halloween

You weren’t expecting that!  I’m not talking about ghouls, goblins and ghosties, rather the shock to the system that can happen when small people realise they have to return to school after their first mid-term break.  This can be devastating and lots of parents report upsetting refusals to go to school are very common at this juncture.    Sometimes even Monday mornings have the same effect.  Inform your child that they are just on a little rest from school and will be returning after a few sleeps.

There are lots of ways to help ease them into their new environment.

Each child is different and will settle in their own time and own way.   Like every other event I was apprehensive about, the reality was easier than the perception and with a little luck, Big School for your child, won’t be any different.   Before you know it, summer holidays will be on the horizon.  You made it!  Congratulations.  Both of you!